CHICAGO -- A lawsuit challenging the funding of schools in Illinois has been dismissed by a Cook County circuit court.

Siding with the state, Judge Thomas J. O'Brien ruled Tuesday that the funding question belonged to the state legislature and not the courts, according to a spokesman for Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris.

The plaintiffs, a group of about 70 Illinois school districts, announced they would immediately appeal to Illinois Appellate Court.

The lawsuit was filed against state officials and the state board of education in November 1990 by the Committee for Educational Rights. The suit charges that the disparity in spending among Illinois school district violates the state constitution's equal protection clause and its requirement that the state provide an "efficient system of high-quality public education."

The disparity of annual per pupil spending has ranged from $2,100 to $12,000, the suit says.

Fixing matters would require an $800 million increase in the state's annual spending on schools, the group estimated, saying that would bring the minimum per pupil spending in all school districts above the state average of $4,250.

In a press release after Judge O'Brien's decision, Edward Olds, the committee's chairman, said the group ultimately expected the Illinois Supreme Court to decide the case.

He also said the group would pursue litigation even though a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the state "the preponderant financial responsibility" for elementary and secondary school will appear on the November ballot.

"If the amendment does not pass, the lawsuit will be a viable way to attack the unequal school funding mechanisms of the present Illinois school system,"Mr. Olds said.

The proposed amendment, which was approved for the ballot by the legislature this year, would increase state funding of schools by $1.2 billion to $3 billion a year, according to state officials.

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